Archive for February, 2015

The Ascent of Man

February 22, 2015

In the beginning

of his life, the man is born into this world. He is born and raised as a child.

Over years of time, the boy becomes a man. Finding himself in the midst of mankind, he looks around at the world and the people in it, and he  wonders what it is all about.

The man tries to make his way in the world, striving to find his place in it, but the attempt is not easy, nor is it simple.

One day, he sees the mountain. MtnCity

He is drawn to the mountain. He begins ascending it. After climbing to the top, he pauses to consider the city below, from whence he has just come. AcropEdgWal2

That’s interesting.

But there’s more to getting perspective than just climbing a mountain. Because he lives in the 21st century, the man is afforded even better opportunities to get a lofty view of the world. And so he ascends even further. AirAlps10

After the man comes down, and his head is no longer in the clouds, he finds himself once again in the midst of the world, struggling to attain mastery over the elemental forces of nature, and contending among the diverse populations of mankind for his very own place of fulfillment and destiny.  QuirnalSculp

After a while, he pauses to  gather his thoughts. Writing them down for his children, for posterity, for whatever rhyme or reason, he attains a certain satisfaction in having experienced life. Reflecting upon his experience, he writes. RomeWrite

Life is good: life. But he knows there is something meaningful behind it all, some lofty purpose, but it is beyond his field of vision. He he cannot see it, and so he cannot readily identify it.  He is not quite sure what is up there. ColmRestor

Nevertheless, the man continues. He rises from his reflection, and trudges on, moving through the opinions of mankind, and among the great monuments and feats of men and women upon the face of the earth, and the revelation of God among the men and women of the wide world.

For many and many a year, he sojourns along the path that is laid before him, for many risings and descendings, many decades, and yeah I say unto thee even, vicariously, through many historical epochs of mankind, and upwards into the mountain peaks of experience and downwards into the valleys to drink from cool, babbling brooks of refreshment, and then quieting himself to discover still, quiet pools of reflection.

It is good.

Then one day, he finds himself at an unprecedented place. A place he has never been before, nor will ever be again, a place from which there is no egress.

The man opens wide his eyes and looks fearfully, studying with wonder whatever it is that is in front of him. There, between the two constructs of experience and reflection, there directly across his forward path, he sees the obelisk of his destiny. He looks up; he squints, trying to figure it out.

There, at the top of the monument–there is nothing there.

No, wait. There is something there. What is it? ColCross

At the top of his obelisk of destiny, there it is: the way of all flesh. But beyond the way of all flesh, he could see only open sky.

And so he entered into it. But that was no end; it was the beginning.


Glass half-Full

Back to the future of Religion

February 21, 2015

Human history is full of walls. Everywhere people have gone upon the earth, they have built walls. Walls can keep good stuff in and bad stuff out, or the other way around.

For instance, consider this wall, which we encountered in Rome when we were there a few weeks ago:


Beyond this wall lies the body of Western Civilization. . .

if you consider the history of the Christian Church as a primary trunk of Western Civilization.

Not everybody does of course. Some folk are not believers, but rather thinkers, like the early, pre-Christian Greeks. . . Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. etc. . . Descartes, Locke, Marx . . .etc.

Many people in Western Civilization understand the difference between thinking and believing this way: they are mutually exclusive, two different animals. You either spend your life thinking, or you spend your life believing what is taught to you.

This is not true; it’s a false dichotomy.

I myself am living example of this. I am a Christian believer, and yet I do like to think analytically about everything, including faith itself.

This I have concluded: Faith is what you find at the end Thought.

In other words, when you’ve exhausted your brain in trying to figure life out, then you start believing in something besides thinking itself.

In my youth, I considered the Catholic Church, in which I was raised. And I decided it was for the birds.

I took a look at Philosophy, and decided I couldn’t not understand enough of it to make sense of the real world.

I studied the Law of Moses, and learned that I could not live by it.

Recently, I studied a little bit about Mohammed, because, well, you know. . . he and his followers are all the rage. Mohammed was a very smart guy, probably even a genius, but he was obviously a man, like me and you. His visions and ultimate indoctrinations were human, not divine. The outcome was True Religion by Intimidation.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, laid down his life rather than settle for merely human solutions to our predicament. Now there’s a man I could follow, even though he went to the cross and suffered death. He was pure goodness, and I could follow him through death’s door, all the way to eternal life.

Of course that’s what Peter, his right-hand man, said about Jesus: I will follow you.

Then he went on to stumble through life, like me or you or any other human being. I look forward to interviewing him in heaven. I can relate to his resolution to follow Christ, even though he screwed up on more than one occasion.

A lot of things were done, in subsequent Christian history, in Peter’s name. There’s the Chair of St.Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, etc.

Which leads me back to Walls phenoma. . .people building walls. Consider the one pictured above, in the great city of Rome. This wall was built by the Catholics to protect the museum part of St.Peter’s Basilica (in the Vatican.) Pretty impressive wall too, don’t you think. I was quite moved by its immensity; that’s why I snapped the photo. It seemed so . . . medieval.

On the other side of it, as I later learned, is the Vatican Museum, which is why I say therein lies the body of Western Civilization . . .

In a metaphorical kind of way, and even then only if you’re a person inclined to place value on religious traditions and institutions.

Like Tevya, you know. . .Tradition! tradition. Tradition.

Well guess what. Life goes on. That day in Rome, after the big brown wall image was safely in the iPhone, Pat and I resumed our walking tour of the city. It was a beautiful experience.

But just so you’ll know what a backward thinker I am, here’s a different photo that I had snapped about a week earlier, in Athens:


This is a statue of Constantine XI Palaiologos. He was the last emperor of the Byzantine empire.

He was killed by the invading Ottoman Turks in 1453. He died defending Constantinople, the epicenter of Orthodox Christianity during that period of history. The empire that he ruled, the Byzantine, had been trying to build a Wall, of sorts, a wall of Christian religion and dominion that would withstand the onslaught of Muslim Ottomans, but Byzantium could not withstand the Ottomans. So now the place is called Istanbul.

But such is the fate of Western Civilization’s aspirations for world dominion. Orthodox Christendom and the Byzantine empire that defended it could not stand against the onslaught of Islam in 1453.

Later however, the Ottoman empire suffered its own demise, in 1924, after Western Civilization imposed a new victory over the Ottoman Caliphate in the aftermath of World War I.

Alas, nowadays we Civilized persons of the West face a new Islamic Pretender. This one, arising in ancient Syrian lands, is claiming to recover the lapsed Caliphate mantle which had been worn for a few centuries by the Turks, even though the arrogant ISIS brutes do not acknowledge the Ottoman legacy as a legitimate Caliphate.

Consequently, we survivors of Western Civilization are now building a new network of Walls: digital walls, firewalls, psychological walls, spiritual and moral walls, to arrest the shock and awe of “violent extremists.”

Ultimately, we will have to erect some military walls, both defensive and offensive, before it is all over with, the end of the world or whatever.

Or just the end of Western Civilization. Then where will the body lie?

Whatever happens, our opposition to the jayvee-team fascists of the Khilafah will not end as Constantine XI’s last stand ended in 1453; nor is it likely to be enshrined within the walls of  the Vatican Museum.



70 A.D. and the Arch in Rome

February 15, 2015

About 2800 years ago, King Solomon of Israel built a Temple in Jerusalem. Its purpose was to provide a place where the Jewish people would worship YHWH, better known today as God.

The Jewish kingdom came to an end when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem, about 597 B.C.E., and occupied the city. The Temple was looted and sacked. Most of the influential Jews were hauled off to Babylon to be imprisoned or to serve Nebuchadnezzar.

About sixty years after the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, a small number of the Jewish people were allowed to return. Two prophets of that period, Haggai and Zechariah, addressed their exhortations to leaders named Zerubbabel and Joshua, regarding a rebuilding of the Temple.

So within the fledgeling Jewish community of post-exile Jerusalem, work was begun to restore, in whatever way possible, a new Temple. According to Eerdmans New Bible Dictionary, 1970 edition :

“The exiles who returned (c.537 B.C.) took with them the vessels looted by Nebuchadnezzar, and the authorization of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the Temple. Apparently the site was cleared of rubble and an altar built and the laying of the foundation commenced (Ezr. i, iii. 2, 3, 8-10). When eventually finished it was 60 cubits long and 60 cubits high, but even the foundations showed that it would be inferior to Solomon’s temple.”

But the people of Israel were in perpetual trouble, as they are today, with the larger, stronger political and military forces that surrounded– and sought to dominate– them, during the next five hundred years.

Most especially, the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who (Eerdmans New Bible Dictionary). . .

“. . . set up the ‘abomination of desolation’ (a pagan altar or statue) on 15 December 167 B.C (1 Macc. i.54). The triumphant Maccabees cleansed the Temple from this pollution and replaced the furniture late in 164 B.C (1 Macc. iv. 36-59). They also turned the enclosure into a fortress so strong that it resisted the siege of Pompey for three months (63 BC).”

But the Roman empire was too much for the independent Judeans, who refused to accept any god except their one, true YHWH. The Roman legions subdued them, and massacred over 12,000 on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Those who remained among the Jewish people of Israel were still yet to see a Temple built in Jerusalem.

In 37 B.C., the Roman Senate bequeathed the title “King of the Jews” upon a Jew of Idumaean descent, Herod, who became known as Herod the Great.

His “greatness” was apparent to his Roman superiors, including Emperor Octavian (Augustus), more-so than to his Judean subjects. Among his several attempts to reconcile with his people (although he was an Idumaean, or Edomite, Jew), was his construction of a new Temple!

Herod “the Great” began its construction in 19 B.C., and it was considered complete by 9 B.C. It was a grand structure, very impressive, and consistent with the Roman way of grandiose magnificence, if not true to the original Jewish plan and worshipful purpose as King David and Solomon had envisioned.

Nevertheless, on a certain day about forty years later, Jesus of Nazareth walked in the place and prophecied that it would be taken apart stone by stone.

And that is what happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman military leader (later Emperor) Titus conquered Judea, ransacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Again. When Titus and his legions got done with the Temple and its environs, there wasn’t a stone left, except this retaining wall:


Titus, like Antiochus or Hitler, was quite proud of his conquest of the Jews. His father, the Emperor Vaspasian, agreed that the subjugation of those only-one-God-and-you’re-not-Him Jews was quite a feat. A few years later, in year 79, Titus followed his father into the highest office of the Roman Empire. But his time as Emperor was short. He died in 81 A.D.

The next year, 82 A.D., his conquest was commemorated in stone as the Arch of Titus, which still stands in the oldest part of Rome.

In his tour-guide book about Rome, Rick Steves published this explanation about the Arch of Titus:

“The Arch of Titus commemorated the Roman victory over the province of Judaea (Israel) in A.D. 70. The Romans had a reputation as benevolent conquerors who tolerated the local customs and rulers. All they required was allegiance to the empire, shown by worshipping the emperor as a god. No problem for most conquered people, who already had half a dozen gods on their prayer lists anyway. But Israelites believed in only one god, and it wasn’t the emperor. Israel revolted. After a short but bitter war, the Romans defeated the rebels, took Jerusalem, destroyed their temple (leaving only the foundation wall–today’s revered ‘Wailing Wall’), and brought home 50,000 Jewish slaves. . .who were forced to build this arch. . .”


A couple of weeks ago, I was in Rome, observing the Arch of Titus, when I noticed this detailed bas-relief on the underneath part of the arch:


And even though the Romans carried off (as is depicted in my photo) the Menorah from the Jerusalem Temple, the light of God’s presence has not been extinguished. It still shines.

According to the one who predicted the Temple’s destruction, the flame still burns.

It shines for Jews as a Channukah celebration, and a Next Year in Jerusalem Passover prayer, and hope for a long-awaited Meschiach.

It shines for me as the light of Christ within me, and within all those who believe in Him.



Ritual and Renewal in Christendom

February 14, 2015

I was raised in the Catholic Church, and my wife was too. That was a long time ago.

During the 35 years of our marriage, we’ve been intimately connected to a group of Protestant Christian believers. Our group spends a lot of time reading the Bible and discussing the revelation, poetry, prophecy and history that is documented therein.

Our literate emphasis on the Bible, the printed Word of God, has not always been the main thrust of the Christian religion. Widespread reading of the Scriptures only came to the forefront in Christian life during the Protestant Reformation, which was led in the 1500’s by Martin Luther, John Calvin and many other outspoken reformers.

There’s a historical reason why the Reformation, and the Renaissance before it, happened when it did.

About a hundred years before Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention and development of the printing press had begun forging new paths of communication. This new printing technology would greatly proliferate literacy, and the use of the printed word, for centuries to come. The expanded use of printed Scriptures fundamentally changed the Christian religion; it was similar, in a way, to the way digital media has profoundly altered communication during our times.

But before that 16th-century revolution in literate religion came (enabling Christians to sit around discussing the Bible), there was the centuries-old Practice of Religion, and a major part of that religion was Ritual.

Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is plainly told, for all to see and read, in the four Gospels of the printed Word. We take this for granted in the 21st century, as we did in the last century when I was growing up.

My Catholic childhood practice of religion was absolutely defined by the Mass, which is a ritual that had originated in the events of Christ’s sacrifice, but was later morphed during 1900 years of time into a prescribed, elaborate ceremony. The original purpose of the Mass was to tell the story of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, in Jerusalem. But as that Mass came down through the ages, the cognitive element (understanding what actually happened at Calvary) was draped (rather mysteriously in my young consciousness) in ceremonial robes, and spoken in a language–Latin–that I did not understand. And so the Mass became, for me and for millions of others, something else. It became a Ritual.

In my young soul, this produced reverence, and a kind of faith–not a faith of understanding, but of. . .ritual, and yes, belief.

I’m not rejecting ritual altogether. I believe it is a profound component of human community, and can be a pathway toward faithful worship. But my turning, in early adulthood, to (what is called Protestantism) the Scriptures, instead of the Catholic (or HighChurch) ceremonial practice, has been quite productive, and beneficial in how I have lived life.

When Pat and I visited Greece and Italy a few of weeks ago, I was enlightened about all this. It was a kind of epiphany.

In Athens, we saw:


I snapped the image in a Greek Orthodox church.

A week later in Rome, we saw:


This image is from a Roman Catholic church.

These two pix cannot portray the meaning, nor the reverential profundity, of worship as it regularly is offered in Orthodox and Catholic churches of the Old World, and still today through the whole world. But they are a visual indicator of the cultural legacy, and the experiential intensity, that accompanies ceremonies in both major strains of Christendom. (Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic parted ways during the 11th century A.D.)

I will cast no judgement about the formal traditions of my Christian brothers and sisters whose faith is framed in the Old way of worship. I suppose what they are doing may reflect more perfectly what we will all be doing in heaven someday.

These reverential musings, which were recently initiated for me in Athens and Rome, have marvelously, perhaps Providentially, landed on this screen just now, for you to see. Now I will bring this ceremonial sojourn to a visual cadence with . . . one more picture I snapped; it expresses my feeling about our colorful Christian faith, which is visible to those who watch attentively, in the midst of a tragic, and dreary, world.


Glass half-Full

A Tale of #GreekDebt

February 13, 2015

A New swelling of national Debt, in a country as old as the hills

compels northern EU partners to halt Greece’s spending thrills.

So they bind up Hellenic budgets with a cord called Austerity;

It’s the only way, they say, to get back to Euro-prosperity.

A few years down the road, and Greece is really hurting;

the Greeks are sighing, even crying: this Austerity’s not working.

We need our jobs back; we’re tired of all these layoffs,

Just give us something Greek to do besides supplying EU payoffs.


Now along comes a liberator, a homegrown politician,  Alexis Agonistes.

He’s got homegrown renown and resolve unbound, to set free the Economy of Greece.

Chosen by the Austere-stretched people of that ancient Hellenic polity,

Alexis steps up to the mike to strike, and dispose of austerity.

With his fearless finance guy, Yanis the Untamed, standing at his side,

bold Alexis tells all the Eurocrats it’s time to let the Greek debt slide.

Growth is what we need, says he, invoking the holy grail of the economic world.

Just release this Troika bondage, and scrap these EU rules. Let Greek flags fly unfurled!


You’ve worn us out with repayment plans, and schedules without end.

Let us do the hire and fire; we’ll pay you when we can,

‘Cause we’re Syriza ’bout strong labor, wages and good jobs for our nation,

And we will rescue our Hellen from your Troyka domination!


Now the Germans told the Belgians and the Brits told the French,

Beware Greeks bearing debts; they’ll sink our Euro inch by inch.

But here’s the message from Syriza, and it surely isn’t funny:

Beware the Troikan horse, and Europeans demanding money.


Glass Chimera

Boston is from Athens; New York is from Rome

February 8, 2015

Having just returned from a week in Athens and a week in Rome, I have to say this: There’s a lot of old stuff there.

It is obvious to me that, as Americans, we live in a New World. Our infrastructure and buildings are decades, or a mere century or two, old.

Europeans live in an Old World. Buildings and roads there  are centuries, even thousands of years, old.

And yet, within that Old World, there is a noticeable “old” and “new” between Athens and Rome. There was a time–around 100 bc–when Rome was the new kid on the block. Greece’s culture and structure, stretching back into antiquity three or four centuries before Rome’s, was nascent and contemplative.


In a mysterious kind of way, the dawn of Western civilization in Greek culture was delicate, as compared to Rome’s bigger-is-better bluster and in-your-face bravado.


Think of it this way:  Boston is from Athens; New York is from Rome.

Or think of it another way: Ancient Greece is like old Virginia; ancient Rome is like Chicago, Houston, L.A.

Or yet another way: The Greeks were Adams, Franklin, Jefferson; The Romans were Carnegie, Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan.

As Athens is the birthplace of democracy, Boston is the birthplace of American politics. World-changing ideas there caught a continental foothold that, once established, went on to inspire representative governments around the world.

The Roman Empire eventually degenerated into a dictatorship, but the Republic upon which Rome was established had its philosophical roots in the earlier Greek democracy.

When the Romans came along in history, a few centuries after the Greek golden age (450-400 bc),  they did everything bigger and better. Emperor Hadrian of Rome (117-138 ad) strode into Athens and fell in love with the place. But for him it was a diamond in the rough, not glitzy enough, and it needed to be bigger, on the scale of Empire, instead of City-state. He rebuilt the ancient Greek temples more impressively, in expanded proportions. His take-charge hegemony extended the city of Athens in a big way, by means of Roman high-tech engineering. Massive Roman engineering projects ensured that citizens could get around on new, sturdily-built highways. Hadrian’s update was like as if, bringing L.A. and Houston to colonial Boston.

Check this out, the ancient Greek theatre of Dionysius, which was begun in Athens about 500 bc on the south slope of Acropolis:


Jimmi, our guide in Athens, mentioned the tragicomedy plays (Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides) and other events that were performed in this first major theater, during Greece’s golden age of 450-400 bc. These dramatic and sport events came  long before the Romans got there. The Greeks did get a little wild with their pagan Dionysian celebrations.

One person in our walking-tour asked Jimmi if gladiators had fought at the Theatre of Dionysius. Jimmi said there had been sporting events performed there that involved fighting, but not spectacles of death. The fight-to-the-death scenario was a Roman thing, he said. That’s Jimmi the Athenian guide’s version anyway.

The death-dealing gladiatorial contest is thought to have come later, in the Colosseo at Rome.

In the Rome-dominated city of Athens of 161 a.d., Herodus Atticus (Greek developer with a Roman name) re-defined the whole architectural concept of  theatre on a grand scale, with three times the capacity of the old one. His new showpiece, just a few hundred meters away from the old theater, was erected according to the new, grandiose template of Rome’s emerging status as a world power:


After walking around in those two cities for half a month, I came away thinking of the difference between them like this:

~Greek wrestlers, Roman gladiators.

~A sportly Burt Lancaster, overpowered by Stalone’s Rocky.

When we traveled away from Athens, our next stop was Rome. A day or two after arriving in that megalopolis, we went to the Colosseum. While standing inside that mega-stadium, Pat and I were listening to the iPhone audio,   Rick Steves was filling our ears with history about the gladiatorial contests inside that structure. Thousands of Roman citizens watched in the stands as one fierce fighter would overcome another. The fans would pass judgement with thumbs-up or thumbs down. It was a bloody death spectacle that appeased some blood sport inside the Roman power structure.


And it seemed to me:

Athens: Olympics. Rome: American football.

Athens: College basketball. Rome: Professional basketball

Athens: James Bond. Rome: Jack Bower

Athens: Lawrence of Arabia. Rome: Schwarzenegger’s Terminator

Athens: the Old North Church and Paul Revere.

Rome: the Empire State Building and Godzilla

Athens: Chevrolet. Rome: Hummer

Athens: San Francisco. Rome: Los Angeles

You get the idea.


A Clarinet Finish in Rome

February 6, 2015

After a week in Rome, this Friday afternoon was the beginning of the end for our sojourn here.

I was sitting at a table in a narrow cobblestone lane, Via Uffici del Vicario, enjoying an afternoon vino rosso. Pat was inside the Giolitto purchasing a few treats for later. My resting point was just a stone’s throw past Piazza di Montecitorio, where the Italian Parliament had selected Sergio Mattarella as their new Presidente a few days ago.


People from all over the world were ambling by me as I sat sipping. They were garbed in dark, protective warmth because the day was damp and cool. After a while, my eyes focused on a wall plaque that was mounted on a building across the lane.  It looked like this:


I was squinting to read the plaque, which was a dedication to Altioro Spinelli, a leader in Italian politics after the Big War in the 1940s. To understand any of this text was a challenge for me, although an interesting one, on this last afternoon in Rome. My only clue about the dedication on the plaque was a dim memory of Catholic high school Latin back in the day (1960s).

As I was studying this scene, and nurturing a smidgen of a the retrospective melancholia that would accompany our imminent departure from Italy, I heard the faint strains of a clarinet. At first I thought it was my imagination.

But a careful listening confirmed that it was true. Someone was playing a clarinet in the vicinity. As I tuned my ears to the vaguely familiar cadenza. . .it was. . . Rhapsody in Blue.

One of my favorites. How appropriate for this moment, I felt. The American traveler far from home in the Old World.

I savored the moment for a while, as the musician was projecting his tuneful magic upon the nearby world. What a moment.

It would be a long travel back home to the USA, and I was so thankful that Pat had been able to work this jaunt into our 35-year journey together.

Soon, Pat emerged from the Gialotteria. She took charge of the backpack while I walked around the corner to find the clarinetist who was crooning out Gershwin and  few other snippets of woodwind ambrosia. I followed the sound; it didn’t take long to locate the source. I turned a corner and there he was:


Grazia for the Gershwin, I mumbled and smiled;  he was a few Euros richer as walked away.

Then we headed for our rented apartment; this was as far as our trip would take us away from home– the end point of our Athens/Rome adventure. From this moment on it was just return trip, all the way back to the good ole USA.

Twenty or so minutes later, the sun was peeping out as we came upon Piazza Venezia for the last time.


Then we bid a final farewell to Vittorio Emanuele and all the Italians and other adventurers (even the immigrants hawking selfie-rods) from around the world who had come here. We trudged on to the apartment for our final evening in Italy. Time to pack, have a last dinner, and get ready from an early departure.


I certainly hope that ISIS is not able to disrupt all this.


Blogging in Stone

February 4, 2015


We moved to the West, having been born in the East,

subduing the wild,  taming the beast.

While striving in metal and sweating o’er stone

we forged out destiny, and carved us a home.


We paused to ponder, to find purpose and rest,

to identify some truths and preserve the best.

Looking heavenward for faith, we found hope and love,

but we cast it aside when push came to shove.


Now we ponder our fate and wonder where it went–

this wonder and faith that was birthed in a tent,

while the old beast rises up among us again

to dismantle and slay us, Civilized Man.


But when earthen pots are broken into pieces,

when sheep are slain, and turned into fleeces,

don’t despair into thinking it’s the end of the game,

but rebuild and strengthen the things that remain.

Glass half-Full 

Something happening here

February 3, 2015

People have always been coming together for one reason or another, haven’t they?

Let’s get together so we can overcome these fierce animals.

Let’s go out and hunt some animals so we’ll have meat.

Let’s gather these fruits; let’s collect these seeds; then we’ll crush them together and eat them.

Let’s build a fire and cook what we find.

Let’s keep warm. We’ll tell some stories. We’ll drink the fermented grape and feel safe together for a while.

Let’s go see what the next tribe is doing.

Oh look, they’ve got these potatoes we’ve never seen before; they want to give us some in exchange for our buffalo.

Wow, they are drinking milk from their animals. Wonder what that tastes like.

Here comes this man we’ve been hearing about, this Nimrod man. He says he can protect us in exchange for our labor in his fields.

Now he wants to build a big dwelling place; his people say they will feed us and give us shelter if we help them while they are stacking the  big stones for the great house.

Look. They are chipping the stones to make them fit closer. What’s that in his hand?

We need one of those.

They say we can use their tools if we help them build the great house.

Now they want to build a Great House for god.

Which god? Their god or our God?


Let’s go; I’m hungry. They seem to know what they’re doing. We’ll follow them.

Oh, look at the color of that woman’s garment. How did she make it that color?

I want that color on mine.


Let’s go. There’s something happening there.

They have more than they need; they will put the color on our garments while we help them build the Great House.

One Great House. Two great houses, three, four. . . many great houses

Look. Very big house! So tall. How did they do that?

We need to know how they build Great House so great!

Oh no, what are they arguing about?

Oh no, what are they fighting about?

We better get out of here. We go back where our great Fathers and Mothers started, back down the road, out in countryside where we can grow our own as Fathers and Mothers did back in the day.

No. We stay here. We must stay here.

Great People say we must stay here, work for them. It’ll all work out.

Well, ok then, you stay, but I go. I take my family and leave.

Where you go?

I go to Ur. Something happening there.

You leave Accad to go to Ur? Dangerous place.

Not as dangerous as here, and they pay better.

See ya, been nice knowing you. I go to Ur now.

He go to Ur. He go to Ninevah. They go to India. These go to Egypt. Those go to Syria, Persia, Asia.

Athens, Rome.


Something happening there. We want in. We want bread and circuses.

Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley.

Look! Never seen that before. Cool!

Nothing new under the sun! Well maybe.


Glass Chimera

How We Get Lost (Italian style)

February 1, 2015

Last night, our first night in Rome, we got lost for a couple of hours.

I have to say that, for me–the husband half of our team–it was kind of exciting. And maybe I even enjoyed the thrill of it for a little while. As for the thrill that the other half of our team, the wife, experienced: . . .not so much.

Wandering in unfamiliar, dark neighborhoods in the rain, at night . . . getting further and further away from our accomodation, no speaka de language, off the map . . .

It wasn’t so bard, really. Like I said, kind of exciting.

Not for everybody.

As we woke up this morning, warm and rested in the perfect rented apartment, I found myself wondering: how can such a thing happen?

Just how is it that we get lost? What happens that causes us to lose our way?

After pondering last night’s unanticipated events, I figured it out. The whole debacle happened because of this:


No, wait.

That wasn’t the first thing that happened to make us get lost. This unexpected event was indeed the main reason we got off course. But the reason we found ourselves in such a wet, confusing environment, obstructed by a long parade of protesters was because we had made an earlier serendipitous choice we had made just before dark.

Up to that little choice, everything had gone without a hitch.

We had made, for instance, an incredibly smooth transition at the airport. Pat had wisely made, in advance (actually months ago) arrangements for us to pick up pre-purchased bus tickets that would get us into the city. Picking up the tickets was easy because the setup that RyanAir had at Ciampino Airport was easy and quick.

Almost immediately after walking off the plane, we entered the concourse and, after one or two turns, suddenly we were at baggage claim! Sweet.

Then, to add amazement to incredularity, we went through a door and we were in line for the bus tickets, didn’t even have to hunt around for it. After the pre-purchased tickets were in hand, we’re going through a nearby door and out into the freshly temperate Italian air on a partly sunny afternoon and there’s a bus and after a little wait with all the other good travelers we were on the bus and it was moving and then we were tooling along looking out the window like the goose-necking American tourists that we are and I’m discovering that the road we are on going into Rome is the ancient Appian Way. Hot dang! We’re on our way to the eternal city, without a hitch.

After the bus trip we did have a little wrong turn, easily corrected. It happened in this area of classic tourist stupifecation:


But no big deal. We were enjoying the afternoon, moving along steadily through this grandiose city which is all about power and empire and magnificent splendor. Not like Athens, from whence we had just flown. Athens is like a small town compared to this place. All legends about Romulus and Remus aside, I perceive this City was born by Ceasarian section, and that’s why it has turned out this way.

Everything was hunky-dory. We got to our apartment–the one for which Pat had made arrangements months ago–and got set up there.

Our host, Cristiano, was very friendly, speaka de English, and very thorough in his 45-minute explanation and orientation for our very clean, modern apartment.

After Cristiano’s excellent spiel, Pat and I were very comfortable with his Rome-born leadership and helpful demeanor.

He suggested we might want to allow him to drop us off at an excellent vantage point to begin our first evening in Rome. This we accepted. Since his home was near the viewpoint, a area called Gianicolo, it was on his way.

This was an excellent choice; the day was darkening and the lights of Rome were beginning to sparkle far below us. It was lovely. Cristiano dropped us there and we were on our own. Awesome!

After taking in the big picture, we walked down the hill to Trastevere, the district which Cristiano had called the “Old Rome”.

It was lovely, perfect. Our evening meal was taken at a trattoria  called Dar Poeta; it was the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. I do not believe the claim of some Americans that pizza was invented in America. These Italians can do pizza better than any yankee could ever dream of.

After dinner we wandered through the narrow curvy adobe streets down to the Tiber River. We crossed the river on Ponte Cisto, then proceeded to walk, umbrellas in hand, along the east side of the river toward the Colosseum and our flat, which was only a few blocks from that ancient stadium.


While we were strolling throughout the light rain, feeling very good about life, thoroughly entertained and well-fed, we came across a large group of people:


I had planned to take a left turn toward our destination at a certain point, but the long group of demonstrators (I still don’t know what they were marching for) seemed to prevent it. So I made a snap decision to alter our course a little bit. . .

Don’t ask.

About 45 minutes later, that’s the repeated thought I was having as Pat was making “comments” about where we were.

Life’s an adventure, right?

Glass half-Full